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Five Years - Camden People's Theatre and on tour

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

WRITTEN and performed by Neal Pike and directed by Matt Miller, Five Years will visit Camden People’s Theatre on November 15 and 16, 2019 as part of a UK tour.

Based on Neal Pike’s memories of life at a special educational needs (SEN) school, Five Years uses poetry, storytelling and direct address to explore an adolescence shaped by being marked ‘disabled’ owing to his stutter.

A sharp, subtle and brutally human solo show, it questions the limited expectations others had for a child with a stutter.

Five Years is a work about refusing to conform to those ideas, reaching for a life beyond the one teachers and parents had planned for him, and keeping hold of a sense of self during turbulent times.

From 1998 – 2002, poet and performer Neal Pike was a pupil at Foxwood, an SEN school in Nottinghamshire. At once a show about the uniqueness of SEN schooling and the commonalities of teenage experience, Pike describes Foxwood as being both different to other schools and, in many ways, exactly the same. Filled with 90s references and often painfully relatable anecdotes, the piece explores how our school experiences help shape the people we grow up to be, for better or worse.

Neal Pike is a poet and performer based in Nottingham. He was inspired to create Five Years, his first work for the stage, after hearing theatre maker and comedian Jess Thom, a.k.a Touretteshero, (Backstage in Biscuit Land and Not I) present a talk on making autobiographical art at an Arvon writing retreat. Having previously mentioned his school days and youth in Identity Bike Ride, his debut poetry pamphlet, Pike felt the time was right to delve deeper into his past and broaden his own artistic practice with a work for theatre.

Along with performing his work at venues across the UK and internationally, Pike is the leader of Tentacles, a collective and network for disabled and d/Deaf writers supported by Unlimited.

Neal Pike said: “Being told you can’t do something because you’re special and you will be forever known as special always stuck with me. I wrote this show and am touring it because I want to show people that it’s possible to do things when everyone defines you as having disabilities and forever dampen your expectations”.

Director Matt Miller said: “Working with Neal on Five Years is where I’ve learned my craft as a director and it has been an immense privilege to be allowed access to work on such a rich, deep, complex, moving and entertaining story. Neal’s performance style, both with joyful off the cuff humour and real felt investment and care in his own stories creates an almost effortless connection with audiences, which is great to watch and be part of. I can’t wait to help bring his story to an audience across the UK.”

All performances are relaxed and BSL interpreted.

Five Years is suitable for ages 16+ (contains references to bullying and occasional strong language).

Tickets (CPT): £12, £10 concessions. To book, call 0207 4194841 or visit www.cptheatre.co.uk/.

Time: 9pm.

Running Time: 60 minutes.

The tour opens at The New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich (September 25) before continuing to Theatre Deli, Sheffield; Old Fire Station, Oxford; Derby Theatre, Derby; Nottingham Playhouse; The Seagull, Lowestoft; Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester; Chapel FM Arts Centre, Leeds; Camden People’s Theatre; Theatre Shop, Theatre Orchard, Clevedon; Phoenix, Exeter; and Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton (December 3, 2019).